Are we moving to the bottom line – economy and environment and society? Back in 1960, Vance Packard first published The Waste Makers, [Penguin paper-back. 1963]. He dedicated his book to his Mother and Father ‘who have never confused the possession of goods with the good life.’ He warned about ‘ever-mounting consumption’, ‘the vanishing resources’, the ‘changing American character and the commercialization of American life.’
He had earlier written The Hidden Persuaders and The Status Seekers. We were getting the warnings throughout the 1960s, Not just warnings about these ‘waste makers’, but also about the deliberately built-in obsolescence. Now, with the latest digital devices, we are still encouraged to be the first with the new. It is even cleverer now. Governments have been slow to act but since some poorer countries no longer accept our rubbish, Australia’s Prime Minister is saying we need to care about plastic. Our wonderful ABC has brought us ‘The War on Waste’ for two years.
Many Australians recall our Australian Broadcasting Corporation program. The Inventors’! One of the judges on the panel was Professor Veena Sahajwalla. Remember all those Australian men and women bringing their inventions for consideration! Think of their creativity, solving problems, offering ideas for consideration.
Why have I made ‘Imagination has no boundaries’ the heading for this Sciences and Humanities post? Professor Sahajwalla’s passion has been to reduce waste. She has been called a ‘Waste Warrior’. The following story about her team’s work comes from Australia’s Science Channel. See About Us Publishers Series Sponsors Search
A technology that recycles waste into clothing and building products could be the answer to Australia’s crippling waste crisis.
Veena Sahajwalla, who invented ‘green steel’ technology that diverts millions of vehicle tyres from landfill, says her newer Microfactory ™ technology is a ready-made answer to deal with the nation’s current waste and recycling crisis.
According to a UNSW researcher, a ready-made answer to our waste and recycling crisis is available in the form of her Microfactory ™ technology.
“The technology doesn’t only address the waste issue, it’s also good for the economy.” And, I suggest, good for the environment and for us as a society!
“Sahajwalla commended the federal and state governments for agreeing to establish a timetable to ban the export of waste plastic, paper, glass and tyres, while building Australia’s capacity to generate high value recycled commodities, demand and capability in industry. “The heads of governments in Australia tasked Environment Ministers to advise on a proposed timetable and response strategy following consultation with industry and other stakeholders, and the Prime Minister says the timetable would be left up to the States, but I can’t help thinking that scientifically developed methods such as our Microfactory ™ technology is ready to go from lab scale to commercial scale to accelerate the COAG goals,” she explains.
“Importantly, this type of microrecycling science not only addresses the waste and environmental issues, but creates a whole new circular economy where materials are kept in use for as long as possible and can help local manufacturers create new products and items from reformed waste.”
Glass and textiles are turned into clothing and building products
“Veena and her team of scientists, engineers and materials experts through their microrecycling science have invented processes that can reform waste items like glass and textiles, including clothing, into flat ceramic building products and can also transform electronic waste into valuable plastic filament for 3D printing and metal alloys.”
“This coordinated decision to ban the exporting of our recyclable materials to countries that are increasingly resistant to taking our waste is a real game-changer in terms of enabling the spread of home-grown research innovations for the benefit of local industries,” Veena says.
“For example, we can take almost all waste plastic and turn it into a new, highly valuable commodity, 3D plastic filament, which is now mostly imported from overseas.”
“We can deploy this Microfactory ™ technology in rural and regional areas where waste is stockpiled and bring local industries and councils together to create new solutions”.
Professor Sahajwalla goes further: We should accept overseas selected waste.
“In fact, we should accept from overseas selected waste resources that contain valuable materials so that we could transform them into niche materials and in turn export them by using our Microfactory ™ technology to deliver clean and sustainable materials to the world.” Here’s imagination and, with it, evidence of capability for us to grasp.
Nicholas Fisk, UNSW Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research), says, “It’s time to rethink attitudes to all of the materials we discard and instead see them as renewable resources if we want to reduce our reliance on finite resources with major impact on the environment.”“This UNSW innovation promises to boost local manufacturers by providing novel opportunities through new supply chains.”
From the Australian Academy of Science, the short citation read: “Veena Sahajwalla is an internationally recognised materials scientist, engineer and innovator who is revolutionising recycling science. . . . As Director of the Sustainable Materials Research and Technology Centre at UNSW, she has built a world-class research hub. Sahajwalla leads a highly innovative research program that fosters innovation and promotes collaboration with industry to ensure that scientific advances in sustainable materials and processes are readily translated into commercially-viable environmental solutions.”
Vance Packard ended his book, thus, in 1960, If adversity must be the prod for us to take a larger interest in such matters, it might still represent a gain. [p 302]
Reviewing The Waste Makers, in 1963, The Times wrote: ‘ [It] should be made compulsory prison reading for every politician, every economist, every advertising agent, and every industrialist who attempts to equate a high standard of living with the purchase of the unnecessary, the inferior and the short-lived article.’
For 2019, click on Australia’s Science Channel Smartphone Recycling in Australia